Freydís Eiríksdóttir was said to be born around 970 to Erik the Red (as in her patronym) who was associated with the Norse exploration of North America and the finding of Vinland with his son Leif Erikson. The only medieval and primary sources we have of Freydís are the two Vinland sagas; the Grœnlendinga saga and the Eiríks saga rauða. The two sagas offer differing accounts, though in both Freydís appears as a masculine, strong-willed woman who would defy the odds of her society.
Eiríks saga rauða
Freydís is described as the half-sister to Leif Erikson. Written after the Grœnlendinga Saga in the Thirteenth Century, Freydis is portrayed as a fearless and protective viking warrior. She joined an expedition to Vinland led by Þorfinnr Karlsefni, but is only mentioned once in the saga when the expedition was attacked by natives (also known as the Skrælingjar in Icelandic. The natives stealthily attacked the expedition's camp at night and are reported to have used catapults (unverified).
Many of the Nordic invaders panicked having never seen such weaponry. As men fled during the confusion, Freydís, who was eight-months pregnant, admonished them saying:
"Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout men that ye are, when, as seems to me likely you might slaughter them like so many cattle? Give me a weapon! I know I could fight better than any of you." Ignored, Freydis then picks up the sword of the fallen Snorri Thorbrandsson and engages the attacking natives. She undoes her garment exposing one breast and beating the sword's hilt on her chest gave a furious battle cry. With this, the natives retreated to their boats and fled. Karlsefni and the other survivors rebuffs her behaviour rather than offering any praise. Eirik the Red's Saga states Freydis, Karlsefni, and others praised her luck.
Adaptations in fiction
- Icelandic artist Stebba Ósk Ómarsdóttir and Spanish writer Salva Rubio published an illustrated book telling the story of Freydís Eiríksdottir in 2015.
Joan Clark published a fictional novel with Freydis as the main character, called Eriksdottir in 2002.
- Australian children's author Jackie French used Freydis as one of her characters in her 2005 novel They Came on Viking Ships.
- Popular blog-turned-book Rejected Princesses spotlighted Freydis in one of its posts.
- William Vollmann's novel, The Ice Shirt, is a speculative novel partly about Eiríksdóttir in Vinland.
- Freydis' story is told in first person point of view in Forest Child, the second book of the Vikings of the New World Saga by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2016).
- Katia Winter portrayed Freydís in the DC's Legends of Tomorrow episodes "Beebo the God of War" and "The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly".
- Magnusson and Palsson, Vinland Sagas, 2004[page needed]
- "Nuevo libro ilustrado sobre vikingos: Vinland New illustrated book about vikings: Vinland |". Salvarubio.info. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
- Rubio, Salva and Stebba Ósk Ómarsdóttir, Vinland: La Saga de Freydís Eiríksdóttir, Thule Eds, 2015, ISBN 978-84-15357-68-1[page needed]
- Gunnar Karlsson (2000). Iceland's 1100 Years: History of a Marginal Society. London: Hurst. ISBN 1-85065-420-4.
- Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Pálsson (translators) (2004). Vinland Sagas. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-044154-9. First ed. 1965.
- Reeves, Arthur M. et al. (1906). The Norse Discovery of America. New York: Norrœna Society. Available online
- Örnólfur Thorsson (ed.) (2001). The Sagas of Icelanders. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-100003-1
- Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 1991)